Wednesday, 16 July 2014

100 Years War - Bertrand du Guesclin VI

Jehan de Beaumanoir
Further Adventures in Brittany
When a larger English expedition, commanded by the Earl of Salisbury, landed at Saint-Malo at the end of March 1373 a delegation of Breton nobles petitioned Charles V, asking him to send them;

‘A big strong chevauchée of men-at-arms.’[i]
By this time Poitou and Saintonge were almost completely under French control after Bertrand’s victories at Chizé and Niort.

By the end of April Bertrand and the Duc de Bourbon had rallied an army that included many of the most prominent Breton nobles; the Viscount of Rohan, Jehan de Beaumanoir[ii], the Viscount of Rochefort and de Clisson. Finding that his vassals were antipathetic to his hopes Jean V fled to England on 28th April.
‘When the duke of Brittany embarked for England, he nominated sir Robert Knolles governor of the duchy, but very few lords obeyed him. He, however, sufficiently reinforced his castle of Derval with men, and, having provided it with every necessary, gave the command of it to his cousin Hugh Brock. Sir Robert shut himself up in Brest.’[iii]
Resistance was brief; Bertrand entered Rennes on 20th May and then moved on to Montmuran[iv].

Chateau de Brest
There was little resistance until Bertrand arrived at Brest[v], now commanded by Knolles. According to protocol it was agreed that the garrison would surrender if not relieved by 6th August. Bertrand left a small force to besiege the town and then marched towards Saint-Malo. As he neared the town the English convoy put out to sea, sailing to the relief of Brest[vi], arriving fortuitously on 4th August.
In mid-July Bertrand mounted an invasion of the Channel Islands; probably as much to stop the English using the islands for refitting and provisioning, as for profit. Bertrand then toured the various sieges underway in the area and was present for the negotiated submission of Nantes. At the end of August Bertrand was en route for Paris, where his royal master required his advice.

Grande Chevauchées
John of Gaunt
The fabulously rich[vii] John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and third son of Edward III, had always been in the shadow of his magnificent brother. Now in 1373 Gaunt[viii], Jean V, a host of English notables and an army of 15,000 men had the chance to outshine the Black Prince’s successes as they sailed to the relief of Gascony. Arriving at Calais the army travelled through France; Peronne, Soissons,
‘It happened that one morning a party of English, to the number of six score lances, who were over-running the country beyond Soissons, fell into an ambuscade of Burgundians and French. When they had passed the ambush, the French sallied forth with banners and pennons displayed…………The English fought very valiantly, but at last were almost all taken or slain.’[ix]

The chevauchée then bypassed Troyes and Rheims and in the autumn down to Marcigny in the upper Loire valley and cutting across to Bordeaux by the end of the year. Philip of Burgundy shadowed the English right flank, while Bertrand and de Clisson shadowed the left. En route most of the horses and the supply train were lost. In the final weeks both Jean V and Gaunt had run out of money; they then quarrelled and went their separate ways.
This chevauchée did not bring Gaunt the glory he so desperately desired; the English chroniclers were not particularly impressed. But in retrospect it did relieve the English presence in Brittany; as Bertrand was recalled to fight this new threat. Aquitaine’s security was reinforced and the French advance into the county halted.
The nobility disapproved of Charles V’s policy of passive defence and refusal to face the enemy in battle; in their view this was cowardly. At a conference in September 1373, asked to give advice to the king, Bertrand said that it would be wrong not to offer battle to the invaders, as long as the French had a clear advantage; halfway between the two opposing positions.

In Languedoc
It is unclear when Tiphaine died, but on 21st January 1374 Bertrand married Jeanne de Laval[x] in the chapel at Montmuran; she was 24 and Bertrand was 53. This second marriage again produced no children, possibly, in part, because Bertrand was rarely home.
In the spring of 1374 Bertrand was on the road to join Louis d’Anjou’s latest campaign against Gascony. He arrived in Toulouse in late April and spent May purging the lands around Carcassonne[xi] and Beaucaire of marauding routiers[xii]. Bertrand mustered 600 men-at-arms and was accompanied by many old Breton friends and relatives.
Louis d’Anjou’s march down the Garonne did not start until August; the town of La Réole surrendered on 28th by the garrison was not taken until 8th September. By October the Duc d’Anjou was back in Toulouse and Bertrand en route to Paris. On 1st November Bertrand and de Clisson received the surrender of Becherel.

‘You have before heard how the garrison of Becherel had held out for upwards of a year, and had entered into a capitulation to surrender, if they were not relieved before All-Saints-day………but as none appeared to relieve the castle, it was surrendered, and those who were so inclined left it.’[xiii]
Saint-Sauveur le Vicomte
The garrison was allowed to reinforce the fortress of Saint-Sauveur le Vicomte in Normandy, Froissart informs us that Bertrand then laid siege to the fortress.
‘By orders from the king of France, these men at arms shortly after laid siege to St. Sauveur le Vicomte in Coutantin…………St. Sauveur was first besieged on the side next the sea by sir John de Vienne admiral of France……..there was also a large army before it, with plenty of everything. These lords of France had pointed large engines against it, which much harassed the garrison.’[xiv]
Turmoil in Brittany

In April 1375 another chevauchée was launched by Edmund, Earl of Cambridge[xv]. Edmund landed in western Brittany and marched eastward. The French defence was mainly undertaken by de Clisson.
On 27th June a truce was signed in Bruges between the French, the English and Jean V, who was allowed to stay in Brittany. He was required to confine himself to the three towns still under his control; Brest, Auray and Derval. The surrender of Saint-Sauveur le Vicomte was also agreed.
‘They brought with them deeds engrossed and sealed of the truces entered into between the kings of France and England. The duke of Lancaster sent orders, that in consequence of the treaty of Bruges, the army should be disbanded without delay.’[xvi]


Bertrand du Guesclin
In March 1376 Charles V made Bertrand Viscount of Pontorson; he also gave his Constable several manors and forests in Normandy, deeming him
‘Very worthy of great remuneration.’[xvii]
Three months later the Black Prince died on 8th June[xviii]; his father followed barely a year after on 21st June 1377. Edward III left his 10 year old grandson Richard to inherit his throne.

‘In the month of July, the young king Richard, who was in his eleventh year, was crowned with great solemnity at the palace of Westminster: he was supported by the dukes of Lancaster and Brittany.’[xix]
Around this time the failure to renew the treaty with France meant that the fighting broke out again.

In the summer of 1377 Bertrand, the Duc d’Anjou[xx], Marshal de Sancerre, Enguerrand de Coucy, the Bègue de Villains[xxi] and other captains of renown fought a successful campaign in the Périgord and Gascony. The French besieged Bergerac for two weeks; an ambuscade by the English resulted in the capture of one of their captains; Thomas Felton[xxii]. Bergerac surrendered on 2nd September. By the middle of the month Saint-Foy-la-Grande and Castillon had fallen too.
The army moved south westwards and took a number of towns on the left bank of the Garonne including Sauveterre de Guyenne and Saint-Macaire. The campaign was brought to an end in October by bad weather; but not before having reclaimed 134 castles and towns for the French crown.

Edward III – Bryan Bevan, The Rubicon Press 1992

The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005
Chronicles – Froissart, Penguin Books Ltd 1968

Edward III – WM Ormrod, Tempus Publishing Ltd 2005
The Monks of War – Desmond Seward, Folio Society 2000

A  Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, Pan MacMillan Publishers Ltd 1989
The Flower of Chivalry – Richard Vernier, The Boydell Press 2003

[i] The Flower of Chivalry - Vernier
[ii] Marshall of Brittany
[iv] Near Les Iffs; it is possible that Bertrand’s marriage to Jeanne de Laval may have been negotiated at this time
[v] Surrendered by Jean IV to the English in 1342
[vi] Which did not capitulate until 1379
[vii] Courtesy of his first wife Blanche, daughter and heiress of the first Duke of Lancaster Henry Grosmont
[viii] Styling himself Monsieur d’Espagne
[x] A relative of the Duke of Brittany
[xii] Mercenaries, often banded into Free Companies
[xiv] Ibid
[xv] Fourth of Edward’s surviving sons and later Duke of York
[xvii] The Flower of Chivalry - Vernier
[xviii] Just before his 46th birthday
[xx] His father had given him the Duchy of Touraine in 1370 in addition to Anjou
[xxi] One of the Marmousets of Charles VI; de Clisson was also a member of the group
[xxii] Seneschal of Guyenne

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